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Quintet Review


Bad
Wow. If you've ever wanted proof that goiod filmmakers are capable of turning out junk from time to time, look no further than Quintet, Robert Altman's existentialist story about a game that the remaining survivors of an unspecified holocaust are forced to play. It's like Chinese Checkers, sort of, only it features real people who lose their lives when their piece is eliminated.

Alas, if you're expecting a taut thriller of who'll-survive-the-madness, think again. This is messy, roundabout filmmaking, full of cryptic dialogue, pregnant pauses, and symbolic imagery, all of which end up signifying absolutely nothing.

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Persona Review


Very Good
One of Ingmar Bergman's most beloved films has Liv Ullmann as an actress who mysteriously clams up and stops speaking in the middle of a performance. She doesn't start again, so she's sequestered at home with a very young and chatty nurse, who does the talking for both of them. Her youth and sub-surface psychosis bring about strange conversation topics, until things (of course) come to a head. Despite some slow going, Persona is unlike any other film you're likely to see. Give it a whirl.

Scenes From A Marriage Review


Essential
Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage began as a six-part Swedish television program that aired throughout much of Scandinavia in 1973. The series was created at one of those times when Bergman was in something of a creative slump, but in a career of comebacks, Scenes from a Marriage constituted another. The series was such a hit, reports Bergman scholar Peter Cowie, that the one-hour episodes emptied the streets of cities such as Copenhagen during its weekly time slots. American distributors were soon clamoring for a theatrical version for release here, and Bergman responded in 1974 with a trimmed-down, 169-minute edit that went on to win the National Society of Film Critics Award for best picture of its year. In 1977, PBS aired the entire series unedited, and Scenes from a Marriage took its rightful place among Bergman's established masterpieces.

And then it kind of vanished. That's not to say that you couldn't, with some effort, get your hands on a copy of the American release. But Bergman's original vision - the five-hour Scenes - joined the company of fabled films, such as von Stroheim's Greed, that lived a high life in film criticism while going largely unseen by film enthusiasts. Criterion, with its new, three-disc DVD edition of the original TV series, plus the American theatrical version, restores a great film to the shelves.

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Wild Strawberries Review


OK
I've never been much of an Ingmar Bergman fan, but I have respect for much of his work. Wild Strawberries is the notable exception, often hailed as his best or second-best work (after The Seventh Seal). I frankly think it's sub-par, overwhelmingly oppresive in its obvious imagery -- crucifixion motifs and non-sequitur dream sequences -- to the point where a legion of film students have been prompted to copycat its overt heavy-handedness for half a century. In fact, I keep thinking about The Big Picture, where the film students have produced such ultra-sensitive tripe but find heaps of praise piled upon them anyway. Presumably, the audience is stunned that it can understand the filmic metaphors they have created, and thus, they must be genius.

Wild Strawberries is exactly this type of film, a short but often unbearable production about an ancient doctor grappling with a death that is just around the corner. He ends up on a road trip, filled with false starts, wrong turns, and fantastic dream/fantasy sequences, all designed for him to confront death and question the existence of God. But nothing is really questioned, it is simply presented as bleak and nasty, with our hero facing the inevitability of a void in lieu of the afterlife. The film does not provoke any questions or debate about either death or God.

Continue reading: Wild Strawberries Review

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